My friend Jeanie is an expert in parenting strategy, having studied child psychology in grad school and learning a thing or two from her own six(!) vibrant, boisterous kids. I’d long admired how she manages to set high expectations for her kids without constant nagging, bribes or ultimatums, and a few years ago, she spilled her secret…
I was visiting her home for brunch and as she was prepping frittatas, she called out to her crew: Thank you for washing your hands!
No nagging. No reminders. No request. Just a simple thank you for a task not yet completed. And sure enough, one by one, seemingly out of the woodwork, each kid headed into the mudroom to wash up for breakfast.
My eyes widened, and with a smile, she explained why it works:
Assume the best in your kids. They’re smart; they know what is expected of them and, if given a bit of freedom, will mostly live up to those expectations. By offering gratitude for a task not yet completed, I’m communicating (a) the expectation, (b) my trust that the expectation will be met, and (c) the child’s reward (i.e., a simple “thank you”) for meeting it.
She added: I don’t like to use the word “Please” unless I’m making a request, and hand-washing is non-negotiable.
And so, a small reminder for myself:
Lead with a thank you, not with a please.
A few weeks ago, a girlfriend called while Bee and I were listening to (loud) music.
I’m gonna take this, I said, turning down the volume on the speakers. Thank you for being quiet.
Bee offered a thumb’s up, then padded into the sunroom to build a few towers.
Tell me: what small steps are you exploring these days? I’d love to hear!
p.s. These are a series of small steps that will (hopefully) provide one giant leap to greater things. Not for mankind, but for me, and perhaps for you, which will always be good enough in my book. First four are here, here, here and here.